Miss Snuffy and Mr Snake Oil on 21st Century Learning

June 30, 2018

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2018, examines some of the views expressed by among others London Headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh and her host Roger Partridge, the New Zealand Initiative, before, during and after the recent researchED conference. This article was first published on Educational Central on 29 June.

Among the pigeons

The researchED conference on 2 June set the cat (and a partridge) among the pedagogical pigeons. It was no surprise that 21st century skills and modern learning environments were discounted or deplored.

Key speaker at the event and guest of the New Zealand Initiative was controversial Kiwi-born Katharine Moana Birbalsingh, the founder of “Britain’s strictest school” Michaela Park Community School in North West London.

New entrants attend a week-long military-style boot camp to learn the school’s strict rules, which include no talking in the corridors and demerit points for forgetting a pen or slouching.

Sniffy with Miss Snuffy

Birbalsingh’s Twitter handle is @Miss_Snuffy – “Headmistress/Founder Michaela: free/charter school doing it differently. Believe in freedom from state, truth on race, common sense….”

Some TV1 viewers got sniffy with her pre-event TV interview  though others sat up very straight.

Birbalsingh supports the traditional teaching methods of E. D. Hirsch in The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them (1999). She argues that education should be about teaching children knowledge, not learning skills.

Jude Barback’s Education Central piece on I June encapsulated Birbalsingh’s fears for New Zealand’s education system:   “You’re about to go off the edge of a cliff”.

The video of the cliff-hanging researchED presentation has now been “removed by the user” though other conference  presentations are still viewable.

Luckily New Zealand is devoid of lemmings.  It is also the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping and other innovations which use applied knowledge, a range of skills and plenty of initiative.

Content with content?

There was a quick response from Dr Michael Harvey:
“The key claim that Birbalsingh makes is… the paramount importance of content over skills …[ but] it is a misnomer to say that skill is not knowledge. Skill is knowledge, just of a different form. The fact-based knowledge that Birbalsingh champions [is] based on declarative memory (knowing that) whereas the skills she decries are procedural memory (knowing how)…”

The key to developing a skill such as playing the piano is practice and reinforcement. Knowing music  theory is not the same as tinkling the ivories. This is no black or white distinction but a reinforcing dynamic.

First cut isn’t the deepest

“At… researchED ‘Festival of Education’ conference in Auckland, 250 teachers and educationalists from around New Zealand had an opportunity to expose a modern-day version of Stanley’s snake oil: the so-called ‘21st-century learning movement.’” 21st century snake oil   Roger Partridge

What expanded the current education debate to a new, largely business audience was this opinion piece on the New Zealand Initiative website on 9 June and then on the NBR website.

Written by Roger Partridge  chairman and a co-founder of The New Zealand Initiative and a former commercial lawyer who led law firm Bell Gully from 2007 to 2014, it recounted the story of American Clark Stanley who created a dodgy medical cure-all he named Snake Oil Liniment .

In cutting to the chase the Stanley blade-wielding Partridge followed in Birbalsingh’s footsteps. He said 21st century learning adherents advocate ‘modern learning environments’ instead of classrooms, with 80 or 90 school children and a few ‘free-ranging’ teachers. The teachers are expected to promote child-centred, ‘inquiry-based learning’ rather than teacher-led instruction.

“There is only one problem with 21st-century learning; despite its seductive underpinnings, there is no scientific evidence it is equal, let alone superior, to more traditional, teacher-led instruction. And there is lots of evidence it fails children, particularly the disadvantaged. So 21st-century learning is seductive snake oil, not science.”

 Exposé or pose?

Partridge claims that limiting their exposure to the wealth of knowledge their parents gained at school a generation ago is dumbing down children’s learning.

“Now this wouldn’t matter if this 21st-century snake oil was simply being promoted by a few Mr Stanleys.  But it is not. It is advocated by our own Ministry of Education. Even the briefest foray onto the ministry’s website reveals how embedded 21st-century notions have become in the ministry’s approach to education.”

It was a very brief foray, not getting as far as the Best Evidence Synthesis section . The Ministry, via its internationally respected BES publications, makes accessible bodies of evidence about what works to improve education outcomes.

For more than 15 years New Zealander John Hattie has also done a great job, via his Visible Learning project, to collate research about what works best for teaching and learning in schools.  TES has called him “possibly the world’s most influential education academic”.

The snake oil metaphor may shed a little light in one or two dark corners but, like 19th Century whale oil, it is not very illuminating overall.

False Dichotomy

“[A] false dichotomy of reform versus status quo fails to capture the rich perspectives of teachers who believe in education improvements that are grounded both in research and in their own experiences with successful student learning.” Give Teachers a Voice in Education Reform

Birbalsingh’s very old school approach may demonstrate the magnetic power of a leader able to articulate shared values and practices, whatever their evidential foundation or fashion status, in order to attract funding in a low socio-economic catchment area and enthusiastic teachers and parents  who share her education philosophy.

A coherent learning culture in one school might be in complete contrast to a different mix in another. Each may get some effective outcomes for at least some learners by “the way we do things around here”.

Vive la difference!

Modern Learning Environments

“There is always more than one side to an argument; always more than one good solution to a problem – often many. Learning is a complex matter…. The issue isn’t Traditional Classrooms OR Modern Learning Environments. It is about what works for each individual child and having highly effective teachers trumps everything!” Dr Lesley Murrihy 

In the current debate there has been a lot of emphasis on physical learning environments, for example Kia King’s interesting parental perspective . This may have overshadowed discussion on other well researched teaching and learning factors. 

Dr Murrihy, Principal at MLE Amesbury School has written on the limitations of a binary argument between the traditional classroom and a modern or flexible learning environment.

She points out that John Hattie shows that what really makes a difference is what happens in the classroom (presumably of whatever configuration). Within-school variation, the difference between the most and least effective teachers in a school, is much greater than between-school variation.

As one might expect education quality largely comes down to the quality of its teachers. There are more effective and less effective teachers in traditional classrooms just as there are in mles.

Murrihy continues  “… it is not so much the architectural environment that matters in terms of outcomes for students; it is what we do for students within those physical environments that makes the real difference.”

We could add, plus what learners are encouraged to learn and do for themselves, either individually or in small groups, in a flexible range of learning settings, from teacher-led input to personal and team projects, with or without the use of enabling technology.

The process is just as important as the outcomes in terms of acquiring and accessing knowledge and developing hard and soft skills. 

The Digital+ Revolution

“The true revolution of digital technology’s effect on culture is not that it replaces what has gone before, but that it shatters it like a supercollider, reconstituting the fragments into many different forms, some familiar and some completely new. ”  Michael Lascarides 

We all know that in a digitised and globalised world the nature of work and everyday life is changing rapidly with huge implications for education and training. What are we doing about it?

There is an accelerating fusion of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological spheres. This includes Artificial Intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology,   energy storage and quantum computing.

“Tomorrow’s Schools”, soon to be yesterday’s, was implemented a quarter of a century ago for a world which no longer exists, despite the apparent yearning of some to recreate it. 

Disruptive Workplace Change

“Many of the major drivers of transformation… are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps… the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago…” World Economic Forum 2016 report The Future of Jobs

Since the 1980s governments internationally have attempted to develop strategies to help present and future workers meet the demands of rapidly changing workplaces. 

The WEF 2016 report points out that the ability to identify and prepare for present and future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations, businesses and individuals, both to seize the opportunities and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

But Roger Partridge seems to disagree. 

21st century skills

“What is even more concerning is the cult-like status the 21st-century skills approach occupies within many schools. Teachers at the researchED conference talked about being afraid to express their concerns that modern learning methods were not working. It is as if the 21st-century skills approach has a sacred status; anyone questioning it is at best a Luddite and at worst a traitor to progress.” 21st century snake oil

It might help to define the catch-all phrase. 21st century skills comprise skills, abilities, and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in 21st century society and workplaces.

They are complementary to basic building block knowledge and skills like literacy and numeracy, not substitutes.

Specific hard skills and soft skills sets are in increasingly high demand.  There is a growing emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, creativity and innovation, digital literacy and career and life skills, with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, initiative and cross-cultural interaction.

Far from “dumbing down” education many of the 21st century skills are also associated with deeper learning based on mastering skills such as analytic reasoning and complex problem solving.

The focus is not on content for its own sake.  The test is understanding why and demonstrating how, not regurgitating what. As Henry Ford has it “An educated person… is one who not only knows a lot, but knows how to do a lot of things.”

The sequence is the secret. The most effective learning comes from a parallel process of knowing and doing, not through an analogue approach of accumulating lumps of knowledge first and then focusing on thinking skills and problem solving.  

Out of step with his peers? 

“65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.”  WEF ibid

Given the business antecedents and membership weighting of the New Zealand Initiative, one would have thought that its chairman would feel at home with the sentiments expressed in the WEF’s report. A Partridge, as it were, in a peer tree. Why is he out of step with the denizens of Davos?

Perhaps because until quite recently he was a senior leader in a well known law firm. By its very nature the legal profession encourages retrospective thinking. It is hardly at the cutting edge of innovation, apart from IP policing duties.

The profession also seems to find it difficult to keep up with social change, witness the unseemly scrambling for fig leaves in the wake of revelations about dodgy legal workplace cultures which senior leadership in some blue-ribbon firms had failed to address.

Many lawyers do a little better in adopting new information technology, but Partridge himself is critical of 21st century learning tools:  “In place of exercise books that help students remember new knowledge it favours digital devices, in which students record their individual learning journeys.”

Do lawyers and accountants still use quill pens and parchment to track their transactions? What about remembering new knowledge?   In 1775 Samuel Johnson said “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”

Partridge gives the example of “the blacksmith’s son.”  Perhaps he is struggling to come to grips with the 20th century, let alone the 21st?  Maybe he is even more at home with 19th century Gradgrinds?  (Thomas Gradgrind, you’ll recall, is the school board Superintendent in Dickens’s novel “Hard Times” who is dedicated to the pursuit of profitable enterprise via a repressive approach to education and a limited focus on cold facts and hard numbers).

Knowledge Navigators

Savvy teachers are more important than ever as knowledge map-makers and navigators in a world awash with digital data.

Recognising this is not the same as insisting that teachers themselves are the storehouse of all knowledge which they impart, mother bird-like, to passive pupils with open mouths. Growing open minds is the thing. So is understanding the hierarchy of data, information, knowledge and wisdom.

Of course teachers should not just leave learners to their own devices. These are simply tools to be used selectively, in an action learning setting, to create and produce not merely to search and play.

A recent Education Central item said “There are some fantastic initiatives afoot, from an amazing STEM programme that sees students working on projects to help their community to a pilot to provide home internet access to students who currently don’t have access.”

But beyond the use of enabling technology the real focus should be on developing the critical and creative thinking power of the free neck top computer with which every human is equipped. New neuroscience insights can help teachers and learners alike tap this amazing resource.

Performance Indicators and Comparisons

“Not surprisingly, the 21st-century results of education’s embrace of ‘21st-century learning’ are damning. Since the turn of the century, the performance of New Zealand school children in reading, maths and science has fallen dramatically in international tests. And the decline is not gradual,it is startling…21st century snake oil

Partridge states that “whether it is the PISA, PIRLS or TIMMS rankings, since the beginning of the millennium our children have been sliding down the international league tables-and not just falling behind the rest of the world, they are falling behind their 20th-century predecessors.”

Representatives of employers, universities and trade training have also expressed recent concerns about literacy  and preparation for tertiary education and the world of work.

A quick scan of some symptoms and an off-the-cuff diagnosis is not the same as an in-depth exploration of causes and effects  inside realistic time frames. Nor is it a reason to accept the Birbalsingh and Partridge prescription for improving teaching and learning is the only treatment.

The great majority of New Zealand learners have not been and are not in mles, which are still evolving, as is collaborative teaching expertise. 21st century learning principles and practices are not stirred, bottled and dispensed from Wellington through a monolithic pipeline.

In New Zealand’s highly autonomous education system, with wide ranging curriculum choice, a smorgasbord of resources and vastly differing teaching and learning practices, the uptake of anything pedagogical or technological is uneven- and even capricious.

As well as crunch education challenges such as quality teacher recruitment and retention, salary revaluation, leadership development and on-going professional practice development there are also complex economic and social issues affecting cohort learning.

These include the developing trend of extreme behaviour among ever younger children with significant behavioural needs, including conditions like foetal alcohol syndrome and “P babies”.

Embracing the Future

“…the choice between cocooning ourselves in the past and shutting out all the inconvenient noises of change, or embracing a future based on innovation, disruption and using our brains is stark. Alex Malley CE, CPA Australia

According to Malley there is a direct link between a nation’s future prosperity and its ability to leverage innovation and change to improve international competitiveness.

Focusing on the downside of technological change deflects debate from the more important topic; how to best take advantage of the opportunities arising from the digital and other revolutions.

We don’t want to squash the initiative of any young New Zealanders by confining them, however upright, in neatly aligned single desks in passive one-dimensional learning settings.

The challenges of now and the imperatives of the future demand better.

Lyall Lukey  Convener,   Education Leaders Forum 2018: Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education

 

 

 

 

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The May Education Summits- Talkers and Walkers

April 29, 2018

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Talking the Talk
“…education belongs to, and is about, all of us. That’s why we want all of you – children, young people, parents, teachers, employers, iwi, families and whānau – to have a conversation about building not just a better education system, but the world’s best. Because second-best isn’t good enough for our kids. Or for New Zealand.”
https://conversation.education.govt.nz/

The Education Conversation – Kōrero Mātauranga, which opened 23 Mar and closes 15 June 2018, has so far allowed more than 5,000 New Zealanders have their say about the future of education, some via some face to face discussions, the majority by filling in a “five minute” on line survey.

It is aimed at providing some content for the two education summits, Christchurch (5-6 May) and Auckland (12-13 May). Education Minister Chris Hipkins has described it as “the most popular education consultation in decades”.

Have you had your say? The online survey asks four questions about the future of New Zealand’s education system:

  1. What does a successful student of the future look like to you?
  2. What will they need to know and be able to do?
  3. What things need to be in place to make sure every learner is successful?
  4. If you were the boss of education in New Zealand, what would you do first?

Budgeting 1¼ minutes per question makes this a short answer test, though not a very objective one, for people wanting to have “ a say on the future of New Zealand education… for the next 30 years or more.”

Some would argue that productive change is best brought about best by continuous improvement, at a rate that can be handled by all concerned, not by occasional big bangs. Taking pressure off  fault lines not waiting for large seismic shocks.

Still it’s good to have a reason to engage people in discussions about education. After all, everyone has a view, albeit sometimes outdated or idiosyncratic.

But if it is to be more than a tick-the-box consultation the dialogue needs to be anchored to a sound evidential foundation. Educators and others now have access to a large body of new information about brain function, how humans learn and effective professional development, among other things.

Messages need to be sent and received both ways. We are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. There needs to be appropriate context for the content.

Walking the Talk
“The views shared through the education conversation will be discussed at the Education Summit in May and will then inform the strategies and reviews that are part of the education work programme announced in February.”

Beyond talking the talk it is important to think strategically about how to provide those at the learning interface-especially learners, teachers and parents—with the maps, the guidance, the opportunities and the resources to actually walk the talk.

‘Walking the talk’ matters in the use of evidence for transformative education’ is the title of an invited paper published late last year for the UNESCO Project: ‘Rethinking and repositioning curriculum in the 21st century: A global paradigm shift’.

By Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Ministry of Education, this is a cornucopia of accessible digital resources for underpinning professional development, as well as enhancing lay understanding, including that of politicians.

Vision and Strategy
“…vision and strategy are as much about creating meaning for people as they are about establishing direction.”  Andrew Smith

The challenge for Education Summiteers will be merging perspectives from the lay and professional streams of input. This is not easy. The Share an Idea community consultation process following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, while highly engaging, did not manage to bridge this disconnect and led to artificially raised expectations.

The Christchurch City Council jumped too quickly from a feel good consultation process into “strategic planning” without developing key strands from the public input and articulating visions for the future of the city for further in-depth discussion. The result was a Government takeover via a flawed 100 Days “Blueprint” which stifled community participation and contestable professional input.

The sequence is the secret. A properly crafted vision describes the endpoint and outcomes of the collective journey or collaborative enterprise and contains the criteria for evaluating its satisfactory completion.

A vision should lift our sights, focus our attention and fortify our aspirations. A confusing mishmash of ideas in the guise of consultation can obscure rather than elucidate the shape of key issues.

There are ways to improve the quality of conversational outcomes downstream.

Mobilising Knowledge
“Out of 947 source reviews the New Zealand Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development BES was found to be the most consistent and rigorous. The New Zealand Best Evidence Synthesis has substantively informed this new evidence about what it takes to develop great teaching that makes a difference for student achievement. “…Comprehensive international review

Prof. Toby Greany, keynote speaker at Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August, has a particular interest in policy, both as a process and the ways in which it impacts in education.

Prof. Greany, Professor of Leadership and Innovation at the IOE and Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning, is interested in school systems and how leaders operate within those systems, both as a result of deliberate and unintended policy-driven incentives and of personal agency.

He was one of four contributors to a Comprehensive international review  launched in the UK House of Commons in 2014 on professional learning and development.

He focuses on the intersections between policy, practice and evidence and the ways in which knowledge, expertise and capacity moves around within and between organisations.

His models for knowledge mobilisation, the development and impact of networks and collaboration and his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive change in the months and years after the Summits.

The Future of Education
“Public education belongs to us all. Its future is too important to be left to politicians alone.” The Education Conversation

Perhaps education is too important to involve party politics at all apart from providing a high trust and well resourced environment, with cross-party agreement on key strategic priorities like attracting and retaining quality teachers by valuing them more highly.

This would enable learners, educators, parents, childcare workers and others to walk the talk without the sudden lurches caused by an over politicisation of education issues.

The online question asking people what they would do first if they were “the boss of education” is gratuitous. It invites people to focus on the simplistic and short-term. The challenge for those invited to the Education Summits is to grapple with the complex and long term.

Knowledge and data about education in New Zealand is both widely distributed and aggregated via the Ministry of Education’s Best Evidence Synthesis publications, led by Dr Alton-Lee.

For the education conversation to be truly meaningful it needs to be processed in a coherent way which distils key messages for generating better education policy. But above all, if we are to truly value educators and revalue education, the focus needs to be on resourcing and supporting the walkers more than the talkers by mobilising knowledge and turning it into action.

The role of the Minister of Education and his Ministry in planning and carrying out the Education Summits is co-ordinating, resourcing, supporting and facilitating- more Colonel Hunt than Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

High level performance requires good systems and a continuous flow of oxygen.

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August.


LIFE PASSAGES & LEARNING PATHS

April 28, 2017

 ELF 17 Rotorua Web
“Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every
way?                                                                     
What’s the matter with kids today?”
Kids – Bye Bye Birdie                                                 

Why are young people like they are? What can we do so they can do better? Some key answers will be provided at Education Leaders Forum 2017  Life Passages & Learning Paths, to be held in Rotorua on 23 & 24 August.

ELF17 is about making a positive difference to individuals and their communities by understanding life shaping developmental and environmental factors and path changers in the journey from infancy to adulthood.

Key research findings

The forum will pick up on key research findings from world leading New Zealand longitudinal studies. These include the University of Otago’s Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study founded by Dr Phil Silva. This internationally renowned study examines the progressive results of ongoing research into the lives of 1,000 New Zealanders born 46 years ago in Dunedin.

Other relevant findings will come from the University of Auckland’s Growing Up in New Zealand study which is keeping tabs on the growth and development of initially 6,000+ children from a variety of ethnicities. The study aims to improve the lives of their generation and answer the fundamental question: What makes us who we are?

Cross-Sector Collaboration

The 2017 forum will be the eleventh in an annual series involving Education leaders and aspiring leaders from across the learning spectrum from early childhood to post-tertiary education. It will also be highly relevant for those working with children, youth and families in Social Welfare, Health and Justice agencies.

Speakers from different sectors will explain how collaboratively those who work with children and young people can help influence the choice of individual learning and earning pathways for the better and draw on support networks when intervention is needed at different life stages. Better life trajectories, based on individual talents, passions and personalised goals, add up to better outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

Stimulating Speakers

Speakers include Dr Phil Silva , Founder and Past Director, Dunedin Longitudinal Study; Ass. Prof. Susan Morton,  Director, Centre for Longitudinal Research, University of Auckland; Dr Reremoana (Moana) Theodore , Co-Director, National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR); Dr John Langley ONZM, Strategic Lead- Evidence Informed Practice, Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki; Ass.Prof. Nicola Atwool, Social Work Programme, Dept of Sociology, University of Otago; Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Chief Education Advisor, Ministry of Education; Dr Annelies Kamp; Ass. Prof. Leadership, College of Education, University of Canterbury; Dr Craig Jones, Dep. Sec. Evidence, Data and Knowledge, Ministry of Education; Sue Blair, Director, Personality Dynamics Ltd; Jackie Talbot, General Manager, Secondary-Tertiary Group, Ministry of Education;  Dr Gaye Tyler-Merrick, Coordinator: PGDip.Ed (endorsed in Positive Behaviour Support), UC and Dr John Boereboom, Director, CEM (NZ) – Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring.

See Programme as at 21/6/17

Making a real difference for children

ELF17 will have a strong strand linked to the aims of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. It is also relevant to learners at all levels, including the highly gifted, in terms of unlocking their potential.

As well as developmental themes, ELF17 will pick up on the fast changing environment, especially in terms of rapidly evolving learning places and work spaces, and the implications for educators in terms of enhancing teaching and learning and strengthening connections with parents, employers and communities.

While early childhood years are crucial for facilitating the development of healthy and engaged adults who become lifelong learners there are other key life passages where timely intervention can make a huge difference. This can come from the personal attention of an interested teacher or the support of another sympathetic adult, often outside the immediate family circle.

Positive Goals
 “Hope is necessary. It is a necessary concept. What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?”  Michele Obama

It is important to give children hope in terms of their future prospects, as demonstrated in Dr Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology work. Better work pathways are revealed by helping learners set personalised goals based on their talents and passions. Better learning and work outcomes help to break the cycle of material and cultural poverty.

ELF17 is supported by the Ministry of Education and the Wright Family Foundation

Lyall Lukey, ELF Convener      lyall@smartnet.co.nz

*Blinks
Overview: ELF 2017
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Novopay: An Incis-ive Report from Muddle-earth?

June 16, 2013

“The problems with Novopay have affected public trust and confidence in the Ministry of Education and also the wider public sector.”                  Novopay Report

Apart from those numerically numinous teachers who like an activity-based approach to the study of statistics and probability, Novopay’s game of unders and overs has been very annoying, especially for many of their colleagues. But it’s time to come in spinner and get some perspective.

So far the Novopay system has cost $24 million more than expected, though the blowout was likely to increase even further. But on the political Richter scale it is a mere 3.4 compared to an INCIS 9.1

INCIS was the name of the Integrated National Crime Information System designed to provide information to the New Zealand Police in the 1990s, but which was abandoned in 1999. By then it wasn’t integrated, it wasn’t national and it certainly wasn’t a system providing much timely information, but it really raised the bar in being a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money. By some estimates NZD$110 million swirled down the INCIS gurgler in the 1990s. Though the project was abandoned, parts of its hardware and software infrastructure are still in use today.

Edge of Chaos

At least Novopay lumbered into flight, if somewhat prematurely. Post-Report it is no dead duck, despite the guns being pointed collectively skyward from early May with people waiting for a different kind of report. There was plenty of ducking for cover.  Not getting all the ducks in a row in the first place was the big problem, as the Novopay Report makes clear.

Not Novopay ducks

Not Novopay ducks

There is a web-footed welcome to the finished product: “Welcome to the Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay website. The Minister responsible for Novopay, the Hon. Steven Joyce established the inquiry to address the issues and concerns surrounding Novopay – the education payroll system.”

Joyce is, of course,  the Minister responsible for the Novopay mop-up, not the cock-up. The role of the Ministerial Inquiry was to conduct a fact-finding investigation into Novopay from the outset to the present day and was led by the Lead Inquirers, Mr Murray Jack and Sir Maarten Wevers, to the accompaniment of Goodnight, Irene.*

Educhaos

The inquiry found Talent2, the Australian contractor tasked with implementing the system, has been swamped with technical difficulties which built up a tsunami of compounding errors. This was not entirely news: “The impacts of the well-publicised Novopay failures have reverberated across New Zealand”  for months. Those at the whiteboard face have not been backward in forwarding their error ridden payslips to the media*.

It has all very annoying and very time-wasting, but it is not quite in the league of, say, formerly Solid-as coalminers being wrenched from the coalface by sudden redundancy.

Just after the report was released Anne Jackson Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary (tertiary, international and system performance)  chose walking over planking by responsibly tendering her resignation. She said the decision to resign was hers alone and that there was no pressure put on her to quit. “I remain deeply committed to education and the principles of public service. That is why I have taken this step today…” A colleague followed last Friday. In fact there have already been three major MoE resignations, counting Secretary of Education Lesley Lonsgtone, though that was not solely Novopay inspired, nor pressure free.

Other colleagues will be squirming. Even if they weren’t trying to string along their political masters and mistresses, it does seem that the advice proffered to ministers was, to coin a phrase, ropey. Some advisers obviously gave themselves more than enough rope.

Unsurprisingly, responsible ministers of all persuasions since the Novopay behemoth lurched out of the laboratory were not fingered; it was all down to dodgy advice, the biggest sin for any public servant.

A Class Action?

The class action by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association on behalf of 18,000 members against Ministry of Education acting secretary Peter Hughes is a further waste of time and resources which should never have been started. In the wake of the latest resignations, it should be abandoned forthwith.

The Association is fighting to have a statutory declaration from the court that Hughes, who has only been in the acting role a few months,  has breached his Education Act obligations to pay school staff.  The union said it wants the ministry to shoulder the blame for the fiasco. Vampire movies are inexplicably still popular, but how much blood is enough?

Perhaps it’s really a classic class warfare action ahead of next year’s general election.  On a National Radio  item on Novopay PPTA president Angela Roberts talked about “the workers” as if she’d forgotten who she was representing. “Education professionals” and “support staff” would have sounded better.

Perspective

It really is time for a bit of perspective. Frustrating though the Novopay saga has been it is not payola. There has been some accountability, with at least two out for the count, even if the lighthouse keeper’s role of the State Services Commission hasn’t really been  put under the spotlight.

It is a fact that one teacher’s bungled pay slip was just 1c.  But alongside people facing the challenge of school closures and mergers, or those suffering genuine hardship in Christchurch because of EQC and/or insurance battles, these indubitably annoying errors pale into insignificance, especially given that many schools made temporary arrangements for those whose pay was cocked up. They should be compensated for wasted administration time, but litigation is a different matter.

The Biggest Issue

The biggest issue is why in the first place the Ministry looked off-shore for a tweaked, out of the box system when clever Kiwi IT and payroll firms could have delivered the goods in a more timely and user-friendly fashion.

That’s not to say there would have been any teething problems, both system and training, which is par for the course in any large change like this which shifts a largely manual system onto an integrated digital platform. All IT systems would be absolutely fine if it weren’t for the users. But at least the support would have been at hand and the chosen IT partner better vetted.

When she resigned Anne Jackson’s role was the development of strategic direction for the education system, including links with economic policy, skills and innovation. It’s a pity that MoE didn’t activate those links closer to home. As I said in an earlier Novopay blogpost* we have talent too.

Give Kiwi skills and innovation a chance!

*Blinks

http://inquiry.novopay.govt.nz The Ministerial Inquiry
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8782110/Novopay-claims-major-Education-Ministry-scalp
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/8782186/Education-Ministry-manager-quits-over-Novopay
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8799149/Off-to-court-as-teachers-pay-rounded-to-1c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLvk-qsKonQ    Vid  The Weavers Goodnight, Irenefrom their historic re-union concert in 2008.-about the time Novopay kicked off.
Education Novovirus spreads in Muddle-earth My earlier blogpost on this.

#Lyall Lukey  16 June 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


My Margaret Thatcher Moment

April 24, 2013

 “What after all, is a halo? It’s only one more thing to keep clean.”
The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1948 play by Christopher Fry

Margaret Thatcher was very aware of her likely place in history but she was not  into hagiography or housework. Being dubbed the Iron Lady by the Soviets was a red badge of honour  but being satirised as the Ironing Lady went down like an iron balloon.

As a young teacher I once had a front bench view of Thatcher thermodynamics before she became the Conservative Leader. She took over a lesson I was teaching.  

Cashmere High School used to attract more than its share of visiting VIPs. The foundation principal was the redoubtable Terence McCombs, a former Labour Minister of Education who subsequently became High Commissioner and was knighted.

His connections and the reputation of the school he founded attracted more than passing interest. In my 12 years at the school members of the Royal Family visited the school twice as did-separately- two U.K. Secretaries of State for Education and Science. The first, in 1972 I think, was Margaret Thatcher, a member of Edward Heath’s 1970 Cabinet.

I was teaching a junior English class at the time, not one of my main subjects. The lesson took place initially in the semi dark, with candles flickering to background music (Blowing in the Wind?) to ignite some creative writing and discussion amongst earnest third formers.

The Headmaster brought our guest into my classroom part way through this pedagogic process.  I was more than a little in awe: I was well aware of her soubriquet “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”. She would later write in her autobiography: “I learned a valuable lesson [from the experience of abolishing free milk in schools at the behest of the Treasury]. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit.”

Mrs T was an agenda setter and not a spectator. With the lights up she quickly took over the lesson, waxing eloquent. I was no match and couldn’t hold a candle to her. In fact she had stayed well away from the flickering focal point. The Lady was not for burning.

I can’t remember if she had a handbag but no doubt she did. She was already in full dress rehearsal mode to become the Leader of the Conservative Party, which she was from 1975 to 1990 and then Prime Minister for eleven dramatic years.

In the meantime another visitor to Cashmere High and my classroom was Shirley Williams, Secretary of Education and Science in James Callaghan’s Labour Government from 1976.  There was comprehensive interest by the Brits in our education system then. The terms of trade seem to have changed more recently.

One question still blowing in the wind: is Hekia Parata the Antipodean inheritor of the metaphorical Thatcher handbag or did Julia Gillard beat her to it?

*Blinks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIgFqOgADtQ  Margaret Thatcher – Pt 1 The Making of Margaret (Telegraph)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrQ4saKGI5k  Bob Dylan  Blowing in the Wind
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0PKcKbjlKg   Elton John – Candle In The Wind (Diana)

 #Lyall Lukey  24 April 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/ http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com My other (even) less serious blog


Education Changes: Preemptive PR and Preempted Strike

February 17, 2013

“The face and makeup of greater Christchurch has, and will continue to, dramatically change due to the earthquakes and our education system must respond to those changes”. Hekia Parata, Minister of Education. Press ad 16 February

A tad clumsy, with Revlon-like references rather than revelations, the Minister’s makeover message to parents and caregivers, (no mention of principals, teachers and students), is a bit of PR pro-activity before tomorrow’s “interim decisions” on the fate of 31 of the 38 Greater Christchurch schools affected by the bungled proposals announced late last year.*

Feedback-Simple as ABC?
Quick Quiz: What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: feedback.

The Minister was at pains to point out that “…I have listened to your feedback and made some changes to our proposals.” But feedback is not as simple as ABC, let alone DEF.  Feedback is only useful if it is fed into the process or system generating it. As Edward de Bono has it: “The essence of feedback is that the effect of an action is fed back to alter that action”.

Feedback is also no substitute for feedforward, which involves early local engagement, input and ownership of change.  Real consultation involves much more than the retrospective endorsement or rejection of bureaucratic plans.

Strike struck out

Others were obviously also listening to feedback. The same day’s paper had a small paragraph announcing that a proposed strike on February 19  “against Christchurch school closures and mergers” had been called off by the New Zealand Educational Institute.  The strike vote, belatedly orchestrated by the  primary teachers’ “union”,  had come reduntantly several weeks after an outpouring of criticism about the way the proposed changes had been handled, including mine*.

The call for a strike, which would have been held a little more than a fortnight after the long school vacation, was unnecessary and counterproductive. Perhaps the “strike off” announcement by National President Judith Nowotarski will mark a permanent sheathing of the archaic strike weapon in favour of more articulate ways to influence people without antagonising friends. The public and professional discourse about re-evaluating, re-defining and revaluing education in the second decade of the 21st century would be of higher quality without the trappings and claptrap of imported 19th century clothcapism.

Unsung heroes?

Apart from the stupidity of closing schools temporarily to make a protest about permanent closures and inconveniencing parents and their employers when the new school year had hardly started, the proposed stoppage date was almost two years to the day since PPTA members in Canterbury were assembling at the Town Hall as the lethal 22 February quake hit at 12.51pm. Among the 185 dead was a secondary student who was able to leave school early and head to the city centre because of the paid stop work meeting about secondary teacher pay rates.

University of Canterbury Education lecturer Veronica O’Toole has been looking at the emotional impact of the Christchurch earthquakes and seeing whether, as in New York after 9/11, “teachers were the unsung heroes.”* In many cases no doubt they were, but I’m afraid the accolade didn’t apply on quake day to the secondary teacher absentees at the PPTA meeting, though their (mainly non PPTA) colleagues who stayed behind did a great job looking after those students still at school. As I observed when leaving the CBD that day, many of those who left school early were walking the streets of Christchurch when the quake hit.  Off-site meetings of teacher unions–I’d prefer the term professional associations-should be conducted outside the normal school teaching day.

In the disruptive aftermath of the February quake teachers and students did very well, demonstrating resilience and innovation. The results of NCEA exams posted by Canterbury students in the last two years have been remarkable overall.

Network  not working
“As Education Minister, I have also had to look at how each school fits into the whole education network…” Hekia Parata

The term “education network”  has been part of Ministry-speak for some time. In terms of cyberspace a network is a collection of computers and other hardware devices interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of resources and information. The network will not work unless there is free knowledge and information sharing.

In the wake of Ministry head Lesley Longstone’s resignation Hekia Parata spent a lot of time meeting with the schools affected on their turf. This was brave lion’s den stuff, although some might say it was merely picking of schools one by one, rather than having cluster involvement from the outset. A free exchange of information and ideas would have got a better level of engagement and productive discussion  in terms of the need for post earthquake change.

What if the proposed post quakes education changes had been framed as questions for Knowledge Café discussions by a cross-section from each cluster, with an overarching question?  If the Ministry of Education could allocate $1 billion in Greater Christchurch to post earthquake recovery and renewal-say 80% repairs and capital works 20% staffing and new programmes, what collaborative projects and cost sharing arrangements would your cluster suggest, given the demographic and safe building contraints that exist?

Goal oriented knowledge sharing and creative thinking would have really engaged each cluster as part of the Greater Christchurch learning ecology. The approach actually used  was atomistic and devoid of collaboration, unlike the local  initiatives many Christchurch school communities took in the wake of the quakes.

After individual school notifications tomorrow morning the “interim decisions” will be posted at the Ministry’s  Shaping Education web-page.* School communities will be hoping that Shafting Education is not a more appropriate  title*.

*Blinks
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/the-education-cluster-bomb/
www.shapingeducation.govt.nz  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/schools/8315185/
Canterbury-schools-resigned-to-poisoned-chalice

#Lyall Lukey 17 February 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nzhttps://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


The Education Cluster Bomb and the Parata Principle

October 1, 2012

 ”This will enable decisions about the schooling network to consider housing developments and surrounding infrastructure. It will also facilitate engagement with parents and learners to ensure they play a significant role in deciding the type of education provision that meets their community’s needs,”  Hekia Parata, Minister of Education

Engagement with parents and learners? What about principals and teachers?  More like enragement over the last fortnight because of the way the seismic shake up in education in greater Christchurch has been mismanaged.

There have been enough recent Big Brother announcements on the wider earthquake front without a Big Sister pronouncement to boot. Still feeling rather bruised and fragile, citizens have had to be passive recipients of recent proclamations on the 100 day Central City Recovery Plan, more residential red zoning and the off hand extension of the timeline within which democracy is going to be returned to regional government in Canterbury. The latest shock waves affect several schools, the hearts of their communities for young families and the not so young.

Missed the Cluetrain

As the tsunami of letters to The Press attests the natives are restless but not voiceless about “we know best” decisions, especially if information on which they are made is partly withheld rather than being fully shared. The Cluetrain Manifesto is now 17 years old but some organisations still haven’t got a clue.

Ministers like opening schools, not closing them-ask Trevor Mallard. But for obvious geological, geographic, and demographic reasons there has to be some major post quakes rationalization of education provision in the wider city, with 4400 unused desks.  Many families have left the region; others have moved west and teachers and resources have to follow.

It would be unreasonable to expect a continuation of the post quakes moratorium on staffing changes. Resources have to flow to where the people are now-and where they’ll be when the much vaunted rebuild gets into full gear, with more than 20,000  new workers in the city, many with families.

The sad thing is that the bungled announcement of the initiatives may have inoculated some school communities against some real education changes needed, earthquakes or no earthquakes.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule and the law of the vital few, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The principle helps manage those things that really make a difference to results. Business management consultant Joseph Juran named the principle after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

The Parata Principle

The Parata Principle states that 20% of each Ministry of Education policy announcement will cause so much smoke and fury by the way it is arrived at and delivered that it will be difficult to see any virtues, let alone necessities, in the other 80%.

So it was with the withdrawn class size averaging proposal earlier in the year when the Minister was given a statistical hospital pass by her ministry. Parata initially said that about 90 per cent of schools would either gain or have a net loss of less than one full time equivalent teacher as a result of the combined effect of the changes, hardly justifying the-sky-is-falling-again response in some quarters, but omitted to point out the somewhat larger effects on the other 10%.

So it also was with Canterbury education shake up announcement on 13 September. 173 schools out of 215 were not affected by the announcement-exactly 80%.

Schools assembly
…Blue’s the colour of the sky In the mornin’ when we rise … Green’s the colour of the sparklin’ corn In the mornin’ when we rise…”
Colours  Donovan & Joan Baez 1965*

When they rose that morning, many principals had little idea of the scale of changes about to be detonated. As they arrived at the schools assembly to hear an announcement marred by confusion and mired in bureaucratic terminatorology, principals were given colour coded name tags according to whether their schools were in the proposed optional (or optional proposed) categories of purple “rejuvenate” ( eu-than-ase); orange “consolidate” and green “no change”. The use of colourful weasel words didn’t help schools given a Don’t Come 2013. The blues were soon on parade.

In a (very) mixed media combo consisting of a starter video, ministerial miniseries from Earthquake Minister Brownlee and Education Minister Hekia Parata, it was announced that 13 Christchurch schools would close and 18 could merge. Five Aranui schools would also combine into an education “cluster”. Since they are going to physically be on one site in Hampshire Street a “huddle” or “mob” would have been more appropriate.*

Then principals were then engaged in a DIY breakout activity Find out the Fate of Your School by flicking through the folder of bumf. Look there it is, right at the end!

Feedback and feedforward
”As we move from recovery to renewal, we have an opportunity to realign services with changing community needs and ensure our investment delivers better outcomes for learners and the wider community…’In line with community feedback, we are taking the time to get this right because the benefits to Christchurch and wider New Zealand are tremendous…”  Gerry Brownlee

Community feedback was just about to start, though a lot of people would have appreciated the opportunity for feedforward. Minister Parata said the region’s education sector and wider community had “signaled” support for new approaches to education and this included greater sharing of resources and capital. To achieve that, schools had been grouped into clusters based on their geographic location.

 The Thinking?
…Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinkin’.. Colours 

Just how much thought had gone into the proposals and where was the vision, the big picture? These had been the strengths of the rather draconian 100 Day Central City Plan V1 launched by Minister Brownlee only a few weeks earlier to reconfigure the city after the last of 1600 commercial buildings is demolished. While this was a totally top down process, it picked up on the earlier CCC run Share an Idea exercise in 2011 which allowed thousands of people to initiate ideas not merely respond to them. The 30 July CCDU launch had sold the big picture by articulating clear design principles without getting bogged down on the details, which included some tricky property time bombs.

Now the Earthquake Minister was telling the principals that the region’s education sector had experienced huge disruption since the earthquakes. This was not an entirely novel insight. It certainly had and the sector had shown great flexibility in coping, from site and resource sharing and running learning shifts to more use of mobile information technology.  Teachers and students at the electronic whiteboard and Blackboard face did very well: NCEA results for the region were outstanding despite the dislocation at home and at school.

The Education Minister followed by stating that a strong education system, from early childhood to tertiary, will be critical to the redevelopment of greater Christchurch and its economy in the wake of the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011:
“This is why the Ministry of Education has worked with the community and the sector to develop a Plan for renewal that will meet the educational needs of children and young people, and support social, cultural and economic recovery.
This will involve an investment of up to one billion dollars to develop greater Christchurch as a leading education community positioned to set new standards of excellence in teaching, learning and research.
It also offers a unique opportunity to take an innovative course of action that will improve the delivery of education, extend the options available for learners, and lift student achievement.
The plan for education renewal considers the needs of Learning Community Clusters …”

Post quakes education in Canterbury has been a fascinating laboratory of locally generated ingenuity and innovation. John Laurenson, the Head of Shirley Boys’ High School had posted some innovative post quake ideas for education in East Christchurch on YouTube in June .* Three months later, as top down met bottom up head on like two colliding tectonic plates,  he was blindsided and blindfolded like several of his fellow principals.

Media management: out to launch?
How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101

The devil wasn’t just in the detail, it was also flagged right up front in capital letters in the inept way the announcement was planned and executed in both its professional and media dimensions.

Media management or lack of it was all straight from the manual of How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101, with no obvious  subsequent credits having being earned for the companion programme How to Shelter from Fallout from Panicked Pigeons and Bolted Horses 201.

There was confusion between firm “proposals” and various “options”. The inclusion of the “option” of possibly merging SBHS and CBHS –leaked by NBR and picked up by Stuff before the optimistic embargo expiry time-was rated an emphatic “Not Achieved” in Geography, History and School Culture and brought into question the credibility of other options and proposals (or were they proposed options and optional proposals?)

There had been two rounds of post-quakes education shake up meetings held over the last year or so with hand-picked people, but there seems to have been no meaningful segue to the Renewing Education in Greater Christchurch launch.

Some schools down for closure or amalgamation as firm proposals had prior briefing (a whole one hour prior to the launch), but not CBHS and SBHS, whose geotechnical status had not yet been made available.  Media management on the day fell short. The Ministry didn’t make it easy for participants and media to access online information in real time. In an age of mobile social media and 24/7 news outlets placing an unrealistic 4pm publication embargo only encouraged some media outlets to also go off half cocked while denying principals and Board of Trustees Chairs with the information to pass onto their colleagues.

Not in my schoolyard
“It’s sad for those schools that are involved in closing and merging and we’ve got to sit down, we’ve got to talk about how we can positively work with those proposals and ensure we’ve got a good strong, efficient, effective network for learning in Christchurch.”  Trevor McIntyre, Headmaster of Christchurch Boys’ High *

On Newstalk ZB  and Radio New Zealand the day after the announcement Trevor McIntyre said that while the shake up of Canterbury’s education sector will be difficult for many, a reassessment was needed. Before the announcement, he said, Christchurch principals had been fully aware of the need for changes in the region. But specific proposals for individual schools, he said, are a lot different than generalised discussion about change and renewal across the region.

Banks Avenue School could either be relocated or close as part of the proposals. Principal Murray Edlin said while it will be hard for many, the reorganisation is needed: “Because we’ve had an earthquake, there needed to be a reassessment of what the education provision is for Christchurch. What is really pleasing to see is that this is [only] a proposal, so it certainly gives us an opportunity to have some reaction to it.”*

Some of the other initial comments were less printable. The repercussions of the percussion were suddenly far wider than envisaged. Schools in the west and elsewhere were now on Death Row, not just those in the more affected east.

That Certain Feeling? No Minister

“Christchurch has been very tired but I think suddenly there is a new energy and feel … “I expected people would get upset but we had to give certainty and that’s what we’ve done,” Education Mininster Hekia Parata.

Expectations are very important in education. The Minister ensured that hers were self-fulfilled by managing to simultaneously panic parents, alarm students and irritate principals- the whole trifecta- and provoke calls to the ramparts with banners and posters trivialising the issues but providing a useful steam releasing valve for people sick off fighting earthquake battles and wanting their children’s schools to be havens of normalcy in the new post quakes  abnormal .

In the following days she wouldn’t be drawn on whether schools targeted for closure or amalgamation could hold onto hope. “We’re going to go through a process,… The point of consultation is to explain why their schools are on the proposal . . . hear what people have to say, for them to hear the detail, and then to reach a decision.”

The overhaul was “definitely, emphatically, unequivocally not a cost-cutting measure”. But to fit new needs surely it’s very appropriate for it to be at least a cloth cutting exercise, though one which appreciates the role of schools, especially in rural areas since they are often the last vestige of community now the post offices, the general store and the local church have closed. The same hold true in some suburbs.

Follow Up to Launch
“We have relied on your feedback during consultation on the Education Renewal Recovery Programme ‘Directions for Education Renewal in greater Christchurch’ Lesley Longstone, Ministry of Education Secretary

The Secretary featured two days after the launch in a full page Press ad looking inordinately cheerful in what could have been an old colour holiday snap. At least it was  in red and black. Entitled “To the people of greater Christchurch” the ad started: “As you will have seen or heard, the Government is investing up to ONE BILLION dollars in the renewal of education across greater Christchurch”.

ONE BILLION. What a capital idea! The timeframe of 10 years wasn’t mentioned and it’s not clear how much of this is new money.

 The secret  in strategy formulation is the sequence. Rather than the stages of Preparation, Response, Recovery and Renewal in terms of handling a natural disaster there is the clumsy omnibus concept “Education Renewal Recovery Programme” which scrambled the scale of changes and timelines for implementation. It all seemed rather confused not focused. Opportunities for some broadbased professional and community prior input would have been good, not just feedback.

The next day I couldn’t find anything on the MinEdu site pointing to the announcements, though Saturday’s ad provided an obviously non-hyperlinked url.*  Parata’s  subsequent “stepping back” clarification was a belated exercise in barn door closure. Since Announcement Day a flurry of phone calls, meetings and revised consultative time-lines has brought much less certainty than the Minister averred.

Over a fortnight later a letter regarding the now revised consultation period was hand delivered to the principals of affected schools last Friday. The next day there was a new Press ad under the heading Greater Christchurch Education Renewal (no mention of recovery now): “More community consultation-the next step for schools proposed to be merged or closed.”

More?  I didn’t know we had had any yet.  At least there is now a more realistic timeline for the “consultation process”. Each affected school is left to run its own process “in the way that best suits their school and their school community.”  If they want assistance Minedu will pay for an independent facilitator. “This is your chance to influence what happens.”  Not much chance of that with an atomised process but better late than never I suppose.

Beyond the Status quo

People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord

With the shift in population westwards from the munted east, there had to be more than a degree of rationalization in the provision of education in the wider city. The issues in the west, especially in Selwyn County-where the launch meeting was held-are about handling population expansion already happening apace pre quakes and accelerating since. Scaling up not scaling down is the challenge there.

The Minister’s statement that there is the opportunity to make education in Christchurch better, not just restore the status quo is fair enough, even if it got lost on the day. While some people fear a New Orleans post Katrina privatisation of education in Christchurch, given the scale of the challenges, not to mention the run on Banks, the Charter or “Partnership” school concept is a horse of the stalking rather than the Trojan variety.

This is not the time to merely paper over the physical and metaphorical cracks in education in the region. This is the opportunity to build deep and strong new foundations for differently configured learning communities based on strengthening present and new communities as they respond to seismic and other shocks, including fully coming to terms with the mobile digital revolution and with the implications of a new understanding of the principles and practices of effective learning and teaching from the work of Christchurch educator the late Graham Nuthall  and others.

It is also an opportunity to and explore new methods of governance and the sharing of educational plant and overheads both within learning clusters and with other community organisations. Many schools would benefit from sharing overheads: keeping the professional autonomy bestowed by the original Charter Schools 23 years ago but working more collegially in clusters to share resources and ideas and looking at new forms of governance and overhead cost sharing by taking the burden of property maintenance and other administration off individual principals and boards of trustees so schools can focus on the 20% of the causal factors which leads to 80% of learning outcomes.

 Not Clusters Last Stand
“If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less”.

Earthquakes or not, all learning communities throughout the country should all be open to self-generated efforts to give 1950’s educational arrangements a shake up in a more mobile and connected age with quite different cultural dynamics.

There is a unique opportunity to pick up on some of the exciting experiments post quakes generated by school communities themselves and sometimes facilitated by regional Ministry of Education people, rather than foisted on them from Head Office.

The challenge is to make the shotgun clusters viable while still keeping community identities. Large school aggregations such as that proposed for Aranui will be like scaled up rural area schools in the city. But, whatever the savings through facility and resource sharing, for many small is beautiful. More than 150 in any community and the social dynamics change markedly.

Distributing the Future
”The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. William Gibson

The shame is that the furious furore resulting from the patronizing approach may inoculate some people against a measured and timely response to the demographic and geographic shifts caused by the four major Canterbury quakes and to the real changes needed in teaching and learning, education governance and leadership focused on diverse learning provision appropriate to the second decade of the third millennium not the 1950s..

Of course, some schools are already there and the key to their success is organic self-generated professional development attuned both to the local community and national imperatives. 

MinEdu Report Card: Not Achieved
“The ministry must improve the analysis; the poorest papers lacked a clear problem definition or a coherent framework and failed in identifying major risks,”… Review of the Ministry of Education by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

There are lingering question marks over the performance of the Ministry of Education. An independent review of the ministry’s policy advice about the time Hekia Parata took over suggests a third of its papers are “poor or borderline” and only one-tenth are “good”. The results were no better than an earlier review in 2007.  Papers from the Ministry needed to be “far shorter” and “less repetitive”. Policy advice in the Ministry was graded low. “The ministry should act as a trusted adviser, recommending the best option rather than – more often than not – asking the minister to pick from a long list of options.”*

English import Education Secretary Lesley Longstone was expected to shake things up when she started in 2011.   Parata, also new to the job of Education Minister, said then: “I’ve made my expectations really clear to the new secretary about what it is I want and the pace at which I want it,”… “I’m driving in a particular direction and I need the support and the information and the reliable data in order to be able to do that.” …. My role is to tell her what my expectations are, what success is going to look like, what that means in terms of accountabilities for her.” *

The Ministry of Education needs to accept responsibility at the top level for a poorly orchestrated launch and learn from it. When it comes to dealing with both professionals and the public  it seems that the EQC demonstrates more EQ than the Ministry of Education. More importantly there are also big question marks over the substance of the proposals in terms of their formation and their strategic articulation.

Two successive glitches in the last 3 weeks with the new education payroll, which cost schools throughout the country lots of extra administration time, didn’t help the Ministry’s credibility. But what is needed more than efficiency is effectiveness. Perhaps its time to inject some more new people into the Ministry of Education. Some local Christchurch principals, who are demonstrating beyond their own patch leadership qualities in the present kerfuffle, commend themselves as likely candidates who could balance calls for top down change with an appreciation of the need for bottom up engagement.

Bottoms up to bottom up!

Did I just hear a (very faint) cry of Bring back Anne Tolley…?

*Blinks

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7675704/Principals-in-tears-as-ministry-swings-axe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O87fFRizZY   Vid  Colours Donovan & Joan Baez Classic 1965 recording. Worth a play! 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/7678838/Cluster-schools-out-of-left-field
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7669918/13-Canterbury-schools-to-close-18-to-merge
http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry.aspx   Find the MinEdu’s change paper
http://shapingeducation.minedu.govt.nz   Oh here it is.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7682703/Little-hope-of-Canterbury-school-plan-backdown
http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/regch/792333415-earthquakes-forced-education-rethink—principals
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/6869627/Staff-being-lost-in-big-reforms-of-Education-Ministry
http://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/pif-moe-review-june2011.PDF   Review of Ministry of Education
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwtm2-S95xg  John Laurenson, SBHS Principal. Earlier innovative post quake ideas 11/6/12
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7690199/Schools-lodge-Waitangi-Tribunal-complaints
http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/7712305/Cooperative-people-quicker-to-act 

#Lyall Lukey 1 October 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https: //bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog